A couple of days ago, I met with one of my clients. It was a beautiful day, with rain and a few clouds coming and going, but with a brilliant sun shining brightly.
She was wearing long black trousers and a blue blouse. She had her long blonde hair loose, around her shoulders.
I asked her whether she wanted coffee or green tea, but she declined saying that she just wanted to start talking immediately. The reason why she wanted us to meet was that she had been feeling lonely.
Her husband has been neglecting her for some time, actually, since their first child was born. Usually, when he comes home from the office, he kisses her and goes directly to play with the child. After dinner, the parents play with the child for a while, before giving him a bath and putting him to bed. When she is out of the junior’s room, he prepares himself for sleep or reads, and, most nights, they go to sleep without exchanging a word. And this has lasted for more than a year now.
“- I’m almost all day alone with my child at home, and I hope that we will talk at least for a couple of minutes, but this does not happen.”
I just listened to her, and listened, and she started to cry quietly.
Looking at that woman in front of me, I remembered about a study I had recently read. A study called “The Harvard Study of Adult Development”, which tracked the lives of 724 men, for 75 years. Yes, 75 years. Year after year, these men were asked, “about their work, their home lives, their health, and of course asking all along the way without knowing how their life stories were going to turn out.” The grand conclusion of this study was that: “Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.” That means that the persons that are still alive now after 75 years are the ones that have had good relationships with the close ones.
I’ve learned three valuable lessons about relationships from this study.
1) “…social connections are really good for us, and that loneliness kills.
It turns out that people who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to community, are happier, they’re physically healthier, and they live longer than people who are less well connected. And the experience of loneliness turns out to be toxic. People who are more isolated than they want to be from others find that they are less happy, their health declines earlier in midlife, their brain functioning declines sooner and they live shorter lives than people who are not lonely.”
I know that you, like me, use lots of applications on your phone and computer, which allow you to stay connected with the loved ones and friends: Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber, Skype, Hangouts, iMessages. Indeed, I have all of them installed. But you also need to spend time “outside” with friends, with new people, with other parents, to talk and share moments of your life. And if you also have a friend who wants from time to time to exchange some 121 listening for 10 or 20 minutes, is magnificent. We do not live in the same small little village with the people that we grew up with anymore. Having hundreds of friends on the phone or Facebook, it does not prevent you from feeling lonelier and lonelier.
2) Conflicting relationships are bad for us and unhealthy. Bad relationships with relatives, parents, brothers or sisters, high-conflict marriages can cause severe health problems.
So maintain healthy relationships by sustaining communication. Ask yourself all the time:
– Why do we communicate?
The answer is:
– To feel good and make the other feel good.
For example, the men from the study who had healthy relationships at the age of 50 were the ones who were the healthiest at the age of 80. Good friends of mine have from time to time misunderstandings, like my wife and me also, maybe you have it from time to time, but with an invitation to emotional safety, you can pass all. What I learned from my friends is that, when they start to yell, one of them stops and says:
– “Wait a minute, we’re getting into one of those things, we’re getting into one of those spirals. I was just trying to reach for you, but I think maybe I started wrong. Maybe I’m not doing it right. I think maybe you heard criticism. I don’t want to hurt your feelings. And I don’t want to push you away. Can we start that again? Can we start that again in a way we can feel safe? That’s because I want to talk to you right now.”
Dr Sue Johnson – clinical psychologist, Author “Love Sense
That is an invitation to emotional safety and communication.
Nothing grows people like love.
3) Good, close relationships protect our brain and memories stay sharper longer.
What do you mean to protect our brain?
I will give you as an example a couple that I know well with a marriage of over 30 years. My wife and I visit them yearly, and, while we are there, suddenly they start fighting for everything. They fight about the table arrangements, about the food; they talk together at the same time. After that, they both start to yell at each other and next, we run to the door to leave. And they calm down, but the “battle” continues silently. You would say that this relationship can’t last more than a year, but the secret here is that they can count on each other every day. Especially in times of need. When one of them is sick, they are together, and their love is bigger than ever. When somebody or something hurts one of them, the other one is there to protect. They know that, no matter what, the other one is there for him or her.
So, the study discovered that being in a secure relationship with another person helps a lot to prevent an occurrence of earlier memory decline.
And yes, for any couple, the marriage doesn’t have to be smooth all the time but is important to know that you can count on each other.
Here are the lessons for all of us learned from the story from the beginning:
– If you are a home-staying parent, you should connect with other people during the day, in the evening or at the weekend;
– Do activities that you like with the child.
I know that there are not too many that you can do when the kid is small, and he/she wants all your attention, but for example go to a gym that provides childcare care or do gymnastics with your child.
– Sleep well!
Be aware that women need more sleep than men. If you don’t have a quiet place in your house where you can rest, find one.
– Maintain a healthy relationship with your spouse by sustaining communication;
You didn’t start right…, apply the invitation to emotional safety.
– Hug! at least for 20 seconds when saying “Hi” and “Goodbye”.
– Don’t forget that the stress one faces all by oneself is entirely different from the stress experienced when one has the support of someone else.
Good life is built with good relationships. Good relationships keep us happier and healthier.
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